Tuesday, March 27, 2007

D-A-Y-C-A-R-E !!!

Pretty much one year ago, roundly pregnant, under a pile of grading, swollen feet up on my desk, and piles of lumber not yet constructed into baby furniture stacked in the guest room, I signed up 'Baby Breach' for daycare. Well, I put 'Baby' on the waiting list, and paid 25$ for the privilege of being told that we could expect a wait of about 18 months for a spot in the infant room to open up. It seemed ridiculous to sign up a fetus for daycare, and 'July 2007' seemed so far away when I was counting the passage of time in weeks of pregnancy.

It's a good daycare: it's on campus, it's a coop, it has a great reputation. It is a licensed early childhood education centre, a regulated establishment. I feel confident of the care Miss Baby would receive there. Apparently, the 18 months of the list we were on represented the shorter wait: we got priority for being a 'campus' family. Babies unaffiliated with the university were best advised to be put on the list before conception if they were to have any hope of being placed when the one-year parental leave ran out. This is ridiculous.

When I called last week to check our status, there were still 15 families ahead of us in the line for infant care. We were told it might be September before Miss Baby could attend. I was panicked, and also angry: my university promotes its daycares in its recruitment literature aimed at providing a family friendly workplace, and Miss Baby, on the waiting list before her birth even, wasn't going to get in, leaving one university family at least in a very tight position. I know this is in no way unusual, and that many of you have similar problems. But that doesn't make the panic and anger any less real in our individual situation.

Yesterday, though, from underneath another pile of end-of-term grading, I heard the phone ring. Daycare is 99% sure of being able to offer Miss Baby a spot in the infant room.

Here's the catch: it's 2 months earlier than we want it.

Our options are to accept or to decline. To decline puts us back on the list, with still 15 families ahead of us, and no guarantee of Miss Baby ever getting in. To accept means putting Miss Baby in care younger than we had planned, and it means curtailing Pynchon's parental leave by two months. But. It also means forking over an extra $1800 to what we had planned for the year.

$1800.

The fourteen families in the queue ahead of us had declined the spot. I can't know their reasons, but I imagine, similarly to us, that they had planned a certain timetable of returns-to-work, of trips, of leaves and home-based care. But probably some of them just can't afford paying for months of daycare they don't, strictly speaking, need or want.

We've accepted. Because we can afford--barely--to swallow $1800 worth of unplanned expense. We're well off, but we're not rich: consider that the monthly mortgage payment we felt able to carry is $991/m. Daycare will cost us a little over $900/m. This is a not insignificant expense for us. We'll worry later about Pynchon's back-to-work schedule, about deferring some repairs to the house, about discretionary spending. We will pay, essentially, an $1800 premium just to make sure that when we really need Miss Baby to have safe, healthy, loving childcare, we will have access to it.

I'm appalled. I'm grateful.

Sigh.

19 comments:

nomotherearth said...

Will they hold the spot for you if you pay the money? That way, Pynchon could still have the leave with her being home most of the time, and have a lot of time to transition her into the daycare.

I know the money is an issue, it was for us too. But in my experience, finding good daycare - finding ANY daycare in fact before 18 mths - is damn hard. I would be reticent to give up the spot.

Mimi said...

Yup, that's what we're going to do. You're totally right about the scarcity of spots ... and how we're pretty much willing to pay through the nose ...

Mad Hatter said...

I don't often rely on this geeky internet convention but since I know you:

(((((hugs)))))))

I feel your pain. Acutely. The system sucks beyond all suckitude. I could go on but you have heard me go on so I won't.

What I will say is this. My sister is the cook at that day care. You are indeed placing her in good hands.

Beck said...

Hot damn, that's a lot of money. And yet that's the ideal daycare for your munchkin and so what else can you do?

Jenifer said...

I agree, what else can you do? And, I had the same thought as nomo - give them the money for two months to hold the spot.

Yikes. No easy answers. At least it is only two months and not any longer.

Em said...

Ugh... we have the same problem here in Australia - daycare places are few and far between. I'm glad you've got something, but I'm sorry it isn't entirely on your terms.

Jenifer said...

Back again. I just had to say how much I loved your comment over at Oh the Joys. The part about the funhouse mirrors was so insightful. I just had to come back and tell you.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Mimi, I am so confused. I thought you were currently working? Is your husband home with the child right now?

Omaha Mama said...

Ah, daycare. You will be so grateful that you took that spot! In a year, when she's thriving and loves it there. That $1800 will be but a memory.

Baby will thank you for putting her FIRST. ;-)

Mimi said...

Jenifer -- aw, thanks :-)

Jennifer (ponderosa) -- yes, I'm back at work, and my husband Pynchon is on leave with Miss Baby. The Canadian federal Employment Insurance system gives us a potential 52 weeks of combined maternity and parental leave: basically, you are guaranteed that your employer will hold your job for you, and you get some smallish percentage of your salary as EI benefits. The mother *has* to take the first bit of time, but afterwards, what's left of the 52 weeks can be shared by both parents. We split our 52 weeks down the middle: I took six months, and now Pynchon is taking six months.

Her Bad Mother said...

Hear ya. I put WonderBaby on UT's campus daycare waitlist at 6 weeks partum and WE ARE STILL ON IT. When I returned to part-time teaching we had to hire a nanny (who we share), which sucks up HALF of my pay but which was necessary because there was no available local daycare that opened early enough to accomodate my (*#%^@) suburban teaching schedule (and there being no daycare at Erindale campus.)

SUCKAGE.

(hugs)

Bloor West Mama said...

I have to say that I was glad that Isa started daycare before I had to return to work. The main reason was that we could both take our time adjusting to it. Also, she was sick a couple of times and I had to pick her up because she had a fever, had I been at work I would have felt bad about having to leave all the time. We too found it very hard to fork out the two months of daycare fee but like you said you do what you have to.

I have to say that even though there are days when you are fed up with the runny nose and the sickness, daycare is not so bad. I know that Isa has a blast there and I absolutely respect and admire her caregivers. Miss Baby will adjust and you will see such a change in her.

I also recommend that you sneak a peak every once in a while without her knowing that you are there to see how she is doing. It is also lots of fun to see them interact with the other children.

Sorry for the long comment. I hope it helps.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Did you ever write about that? I'll have to go back through your archives!

I had three months off, some of it paid, and then I worked part-time from home for 2 months. My sister watched Blake or else I worked while he was sleeping. At 5 months we moved to Bend and my husband took over the parenting while I worked, still part-time and still from home. At 6 months my husband got a job and I completely broke down. I quit my job. I so, so, so much envy you Canadians. That was one of the most stressful times of my life.

Mimi said...

Jennifer -- no I haven't written about it, but I want to. I'm very interested in the social-engineering aspects of our leave policies. I am profoundly grateful for the one year of covered leave: I could never work from home while being in charge because Miss Baby does not sleep during the day, and also, I would go insane. I can only imagine how stressed you must have been. I look at the US Family Leave Act and just shake my head at the cruelty of it, of its complete lack of regard for families, and, let's face it, for women in particular.

gingajoy said...

oh, i hear you on this one. but there was nothing you could do--and actually, this was not a bad scenario. (as you know.) There is nothing better than having the ability to pay for quality care--even if it is a real pinch.

we have two kids in full time daycare. $1,400 a month. A MONTH!!!!

Oldest starts Kindergarten in the Fall, and we'll be able to breath again. And eat.

Let me say though, even though it seems massive, you normally can make it work ok (I think you guys are similar to us--academics, untenured, etc etc). And also--both my boys thrive on their daycare. I love it.

NotSoSage said...

Oh, Mimi, we need to sit down and have a beer. This exact situation happened to me (campus daycare, co-op, phone call earlier than desired/expected, etc.). We decided to hold off and started looking into other daycares, which is good, because they haven't called us since. It sucks. It *really* sucks.

And our campus co-op daycare, where parents were expected to fill shifts for two hours a week, costs upwards of $1200/month for infant care! Joe's salary would barely cover that and the commute back-and-forth to work every day (let alone a coffee or a hot lunch every once in a while), but it was important that he keep the job because he'll need to hold onto it until after I finish midwifery school. I can't believe that we ar put in this position, to make these kind of decisions...

Yikes, apparently you've hit a nerve. We did a 50/50 split, too...of which I am glad, but I've come around to realising that it's not equal, it can never be equal, so long as one person is breastfeeding, and we're working out a different arrangement for Twinkle (who is still 2 or more years away...for financial reasons, mostly).

Oh, The Joys said...

When we first put The Mayor in daycare I cried all the time. A good friend told me to give it three weeks. After three weeks, she told me, I could assess the situation and change what I needed to. That was really good advice.

mo-wo said...

I had my daycare work out two weeks after I went back to work... And, I love daycare. I had a great first experience and hope you do too. Good daycare can add a lot to your family and parenting. Especially around that 1 year mark when they start to find us kinda boring : >

ewe are here said...

Wow. The fact that they're promoting the daycare as part of the enticement to work there... but then having it completely unavailable to most... really sucks.

A lot of the 'good' daycares here are quite difficult to get into as well. We got lucky with MF - we now have the 3 afternoons a week we want - but only through August. We then have to 're-enter' our application and, as it's a university daycare program, we're not a priority because we're lowly 'community members'. Hmmm. Maybe I should sign up for a class...

Anyways, I'd probably choose to do exactly what you're doing: take the spot now by paying the money to hold it. Perhaps, rather than just holding the spot and keeping her at home, you could start sending her sooner, rather than later, but on a part-time basis, gradually increasing the hours/days she goes so she gets used to it.